The COVID-19 outbreak has already forced a series of professional tennis tournaments to be cancelled this year and the pandemic has now claimed its first victim of the 2021 season.
Officials have confirmed that the ASB Classic in New Zealand will not be going ahead next January amid uncertainty caused by the virus. Held in Auckland, there are separate tournaments for both men and women which take place during different weeks. Tournament director, Karl Budge, has said that decision has been made now because of the planning that would be required to stage the tournament.
“Yea obviously an incredibly sad day for us,” Budge told New Zealand media.
“We thought we had a plan that was robust, but unfortunately there just not a pathway to a decision that we could have in the timeframes we needed and unfortunately that’s led to the pretty tough environment that we’re in today.”
Budge said there are a ‘myriad of factors’ that has contributed to the decision to cancel the event. Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has previously said players entering his country will need to quarantine for 14 days within a ‘bubble’ coupon arrival. Which would have potentially caused a headache for those travelling between New Zealand and Australia.
“It’s an incredibly complex situation. There’s no sort of one off area that we met or didn’t meet. There’s a myriad of factors that we needed to work through,” he said.
“Unfortunately there just wasn’t the pathway to get to a point that any of us could have confidence that we could deliver what you need to to deliver a tournament of our standing in a timeframe that would enable us to do it.”
The ASB Classic is currently categorised as a 250 event on the ATP Tour and as a Premier on the WTA Tour. At this year’s event Serena Williams lifted the title in what was her first trophy of any sort since becoming a mother. France’s Ugo Humbert won the men’s title.
A political fallout has erupted over the announcement with some accusing the government of not doing enough to support the event. Emma Mellow, who is a National Party candidate for Auckland Central, told The New Zealand Herald that the event would have contributed $20 million to the local economy. Mellow says officials were too slow in providing support to budge and his team.
“Ten days ago I raised the alarm that government ministers were dropping the ball on the ASB Classic, and their failure to engage constructively with organisers was putting the tournament at grave risk,” she said.
“The organisers were left waiting three months for a response from the Government about whether or not they could work on a safe solution.”
Despite the setback, Budge has vowed that the tournament will return stronger in the future.
“We’ve had incredible support from our sponsors (and) the team that we’ve got here that work tirelessly on trying to make a summer of tennis happen and I think we owe it to them to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we return in 2022 and we return with a real statement.” He concluded.
The ASB Classic was named best International event in five out of the past seven years on the WTA Tour.
Novak Djokovic Opens Up About Wimbledon Points Removal
The world No.1 states that he will always support the views of his peers.
By Kingsley Elliot Kaye
In his press conference following his win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open, Novak Djokovic expressed his views about the ATP decision to remove points from Wimbledon.
Negatively affected by such a decision – he will drop 2000 points – the world No.1 praised the ATP’s stance and called for players’ unity.
“I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there are going to be some consequences. So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that.” He said.
Djokovic criticized the lack of communication between the parties involved, in particular with regard to a document of recommendation by the English Government which contained diverse options. Had it been discussed by the All England Club with ATP and players, a compromise may have been reached.
“I think it was a wrong decision. I don’t support that at all. But, you know, during these times, it’s a super sensitive subject, and anything that you decide, it’s unfortunately going to create a lot of conflict, a lot of separation instead of unification.” He continued.
Djokovic also mentioned other suggestions coming from WTA and ATP, that possibly men’s and women’s players from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia could play together at some exhibition event during the slam or something like this and prize money could go to the victims in Ukraine. There were different ideas, but there was never really a strong communication coming from Wimbledon.
He stressed that removing the points from Wimbledon, therefore not allowing players to earn or to defend points, is a decision that affects everyone, a lose-lose situation for everyone, as he called it.
Nonetheless, the charm and prestige of Wimbledon shall rest unaltered and its meaningfulness extends far beyond: “A Grand Slam is still a Grand Slam. Wimbledon for me was always my dream tournament when I was a child. You know, I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money. For me, it’s something else.”
Emma Raducanu Confident Fitness Is Improving After Maiden French Open Win
The world No.12 is playing in the main draw of a major for only the fourth time in her career.
British No.1 Emma Raducanu says she ‘felt really good’ during her roller-coaster win in the first round of the French Open.
The reigning US Open champion was forced to comeback from a set down to oust Czech qualifier Linda Noskova 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-1, after more than two-and-a-half hours of play. Noskova won the French Open girls title 12 months ago. Raducanu was on the verge of suffering a shock loss after going down a break twice during the second set before fighting her way back to force the match into a decider which she won with relative ease.
“It’s definitely a tough match to get through, and I’m really, really happy with the way that I regrouped after losing a set 7-6, which is always tough, having had some chances,” Raducanu said afterwards.
“To fight back, I was really pleased.”
This season is the first time Raducanu has played in the main draw of the French Open as a professional player. She had previously featured in the junior competition four years ago where she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson. She has now played at least one match in all four major events.
Comparing the tournaments, the Brit says the ‘vibes’ she feels are similar to that of what she experienced at the US Open where she made history by becoming the first qualifier to win the title. In New York she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set.
“I think that the French Open, I’d say it gives me similar vibes to the US Open just because of the crowd and just how involved they get. It’s a complete contrast to Wimbledon where it’s dead silent. You can actually hear a pin drop before you serve. It’s incredible,” she explains.
“It definitely took some getting used to, but when I went out there (on court), I was honestly just enjoying it, and I don’t take any of anything personally.
“You can actually say anything to me. So when I was on the court and you get people shouting things it didn’t really affect me at all.”
Noskova is the eighth player Raducanu has managed to defeat on the WTA Tour during what has been a mixed 2022 season so far. Heading into Paris, she has managed to win back-to-back matches in just two out of eight tournaments played. Part of the reason for the lopsided results has been physical issues with a back injury forcing her to retire from the Italian Open earlier this month.
However, the world No.12 is confident that her physical fitness is heading in the right direction. In recent months she has explored various training set ups and has gone through three different coaches. The latest being Torben Beltz who she ended her collaboration with after just five months together.
“I think that it is definitely improving,” she said of her physicality. “One thing that I have been doing in the lead-up for this week and the whole of last week, I was doing a lot in the gym, a lot before practice, after practice, just keeping all the muscles fired up. It’s something I probably haven’t really done before, train through tournaments.’
“I am pretty pleased with how I was out there physically, and I feel really good, to be honest.”
Raducanu, who is seeded 12th in the French Open draw, will take on Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the second round.
Corentin Moutet beats Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros
Corentin Moutet battled past 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka 2-6 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 after 2 hours and 54 minutes to reach the second round on Court Suzanne Lenglen at Roland Garros. Moutet broke six times and hit 33 winners.
Moutet, who is making his fifth apperance at Roland Garros, had not won a match at the home Grand Slam since 2019.
Moutet leads 2-0 in his head-to-head matches against Wawrinka, who beat Djokovic in the French Open final in 2015. The Swiss player was playing in just his third tour-level tournament of the season after returning from injury last month.
Wawrinka broke twice in the fourth and eighth games to win the first set 6-2 in 28 minutes after two double faults from Moutet.
Moutet earned an early break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Wawrinka served to stay in the set at 3-5, but Moutet broke for the second time to seal the second set 6-3.
Moutet broke at love in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Wawrinka saved two set points at 2-5 before breaking back in the ninth game to draw level to 5-5. Moutet earned four mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2.
Moutet won the final four games from 2-2 with two breaks to seal the fourth set 6-2.
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